(I read the Project Gutenberg edition of this book.)
This was a charming book, chiefly due to many caring characters and the author’s light-handed attitude of pragmatic understanding. A pleasant read, that yet, in the daily conundrums and choices of its characters, subtly challenges the reader to think over what might be right things to concern our life’s attention.
The story launches with Mr. Wycherly’s relocation from rural Scotland to Oxford with his two adopted boys. They find themselves underequipped to deal with housekeeping necessities in this new place, but approach the difficulties with fortitude and good humor. Eventually a kind wife of an old friend comes to their rescue. The orphaned niece of a new housekeeper also makes her way into Mr. Wycherley’s heart–much to the chagrin of the good-hearted housekeeper who feels that her niece should behave according to her station as a household servant.
While the young Jane-Anne has a heart devoted to God and Mr. Wycherly and wishes, in the main, to serve them both, she has an active mind and temperament that distracts her from finding fulfillment in housekeeping necessities. The driving concern of the story becomes Mr. Wycherly’s conundrum of how direct his new ward in her path of life.
Throughout the book are subtle struggles of well-intentioned characters with the appropriate appreciation of poetry, the possible eternal state of Lord Byron (Could he be in heaven?), what to do with well-meaning but rather narrow Sunday School teachers, and questions of duty versus art, social customs of class and station.
This book is the sequel to Miss Esperance and Mr. Wycherly, but I felt I missed nothing from reading this one first. In fact, I believe I enjoyed it more getting to know and love Mr. Wycherly along with Jane-Anne, not being encumbered by perspectives from his past history. Now I am going back to read the first, and enjoying it all the more.
This book also appears to have a sequel, Allegra, which is available from Google Books and Internet Archive.